Medical providers opt to build, design their own custom spaces

By Jeff Morrow

Rob Kennell tried to get a building project done for his physical therapy practice, 3 Rivers Physical Therapy, at the Cynergy Center in Kennewick.

“But we just flailed for five years,” Kennell said. “So we began to look for property.”

Kennell, whose practice was located in the Cynergy Center building at 27th and Union for the past 10 years, will move a block west into a new building on 27th this month.

In the Tri-Cities, it’s the latest trend: medical providers finding a lack of good office and building space and then making the decision to build their own facilities.

Lifetime Dental Care decided to expand its building one more time, thanks to growing employee numbers.

Lifetime Dental Care decided to expand its building one more time, thanks to growing employee numbers.

“We put in between $500,000 and $600,000 in leases over those 10 years,” Kennell said.

This new building is worth $1.3 million, has 5,500 square feet – of which 3 Rivers will use 3,500 square feet, and lease out the other 2,000 square feet.

“I think with what health care is now, we’ve put a lot of time and hours in,” said Kennell, who employs eight people. “We can make a good living, yet we have to look for opportunities for retirement.”

The location is good too, he said.

“Trios is right there, and the new middle school,” Kennell said. “We knew we wanted to stay in that area. We’re very blessed. This is just a natural transition.”

As the marketing coordinator for Almond Orthodontics, Krissy Gutierrez saw the same thing.

“Dr. John (Almond) and Dr. Brian (Almond) wanted to find an existing building to remodel in the beginning, but they weren’t finding the office size and location they were looking for,” she said.

So they decided to custom build. And while they’re located on Gage Boulevard in Richland right now, their new building is going up by Great Harvest Bread Co. in Kennewick and will be ready by January.

“Once they decided to custom build, they went with an architect out of Spokane to draw up floor plans and decided to go with a local contractor, W McKay,” said Gutierrez. “We have a growing business and really needed to accommodate our patients and staff.”

The company has been in business since 2007 and has 16 employees.

Ami Gunther, vice president of G2 Commercial Construction, said her company gets several calls to construct new buildings for doctors and dentists.

“This area is big for baby boomers, and boomers are getting old,” Gunther said. “This area, in general, there is a lot of need for medical services to come in. People are retiring here and need places to go.”

Scott Sautell, a commercial real estate specialist from Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities, said it’s difficult for smaller practices to find suitable space with the growth of two local hospitals over the past few years.

“Trios and Kadlec have kind of gutted a lot of the existing stuff,” he said. “It’s so challenging to find something to fit the criteria for when other doctors are looking to expand,” Sautell said.

So practitioners decide to build their own buildings.

“Money is cheap right now,” Sautell said. “It’s a good opportunity of being an owner of a building and getting what you want. And it’s better being an owner instead of a tenant.”

Dr. Nicholas Andros and his four full-time employees are in the first year of practice at Andros Orthodontics on Bedford Street in Pasco. Kelli Flynn, office manager, understands why many doctors, dentists and orthodontists build their own spaces.

“As far as buildings, doctors are being told in school to build their offices if they can,” she said. “They say, ‘Build your practice and then pay yourself for the real estate on the other end.’ Plus it’s a good tax write off.”

Tyler Goodro is the marketing manager for Tri-Cities Orthopaedic Clinic, which has three separate buildings in the Vista Field area in Kennewick.

The facility houses nine doctors in relatively new office space.

“Any existing building has to be changed to fit the doctors’ needs,” Goodro said.

Which is why new buildings were constructed.

“There’s not a big reason to cram everybody else together,” Goodro said.

Brande Hirai is the office manager for Lifetime Dental, which is owned by Dr. Michael Breier and located on a corner lot at Queensgate near Walmart in Richland.

“We were on Wellsian Way in Richland for 10 years,” said Hirai, who notes the company has 30 employees. “For what Dr. Breier’s needs were and the plans he wanted, he wanted to be able to design the building the way he wanted. This location, which we’ve been at the past nine years, is super for us because we are so visible.”

Hirai noted the practice is currently adding on to alleviate crowding.

“We’ve completely maximized our space,” Hirai said. “I don’t know what we’ll do if we need to expand again.”

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